Eighteen oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide would be canceled and another seven reduced in size under the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred option in a much-anticipated draft environmental analysis of 65 existing leases on the White River National Forest.

The BLM’s draft Environmental Impact Statement released Wednesday will be open for public comment beginning Friday and continuing until Jan. 8. Activists working to preserve the Thompson Divide were gratified; natural gas interests cried foul.

“The outcome of this faux process has always been predetermined,” said David Ludlam, executive director for the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

The BLM document presents five alternatives, ranging from no changes to the 65 existing, mostly undeveloped leases, to canceling them entirely.

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